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ADDUSER(8) System Manager's Manual ADDUSER(8)


adduser, addgroup - add or manipulate users or groups


adduser [[options]] [--home dir] [--shell shell] [--no-create-home] [--uid id] [--firstuid id] [--lastuid id] [--firstgid id] [--lastgid id] [--ingroup group] [--gid id] [--disabled-password] [--disabled-login] [--gecos gecos] [--add-extra-groups] [user]
adduser [--system] [[options]] [--home dir] [--shell shell] [--no-create-home] [--uid id] [--group] [--ingroup group] [--gid id] [--disabled-password] [--disabled-login] [--gecos gecos] [user]
addgroup [[options]] [--gid ID] [group]
addgroup [--system] [[options]] [--gid id] [group]
adduser [[options]] [user] [group"]


adduser and addgroup add users and groups to the system according to command line options and configuration information in /etc/adduser.conf. They are friendlier front ends to the low level tools like useradd, groupadd and usermod programs, by default choosing Debian policy conformant UID and GID values, creating a home directory with skeletal configuration, running a custom script, and other features.

adduser and addgroup are intended as a policy layer, making it easier for package maintainers and local administrators to create local system accounts in the way Debian expects them to be created, taking the burden to adapt to the probably changing specifications of Debian policy. adduser --system takes special attention on just needing a single call in the package maintainer scripts without any conditional wrappers, error suppression or other scaffolding.

adduser honors the distinction between dynamically allocated system users and groups and dynamically allocated user accounts that is documented in Debian Policy, Chapter 9.2.2.

adduser and addgroup can be run in one of five modes:

Add a normal user

If called with one non-option argument and without the --system or --group options, adduser will add a normal user, that means a dynamically allocated user account in the sense of Debian Policy. This is commonly referred to in adduser as a non-system user.

adduser will choose the first available UID from the range specified for normal users in the configuration file. The UID can be overridden with the --uid option.

The range specified in the configuration file may be overridden with the --firstuid and --lastuid options.

By default, each user in Debian GNU/Linux is given a corresponding group with the same name. Usergroups allow group writable directories to be easily maintained by placing the appropriate users in the new group, setting the set-group-ID bit in the directory (which is on by default), and ensuring that all users use a umask of 002. If USERS_GID or USERS_GROUP are set, the newly created user is placed in the referenced group as a supplemental group. . Setting both USERS_GID and USERS_GROUP is an error even if the settings are consistent. If USERGROUPS is no, all users get the group defined by USERS_GID or USERS_GROUP as their primary group. Users' primary groups can also be overridden from the command line with the --gid or --ingroup options to set the group by id or name, respectively. Also, users can be added to one or more supplemental groups defined in adduser.conf either by setting ADD_EXTRA_GROUPS to 1 in adduser.conf, or by passing --add-extra-groups on the commandline.

adduser will create a home directory subject to DHOME, GROUPHOMES, and LETTERHOMES. The home directory can be overridden from the command line with the --home option, and the shell with the --shell option. The home directory's set-group-ID bit is set if USERGROUPS is yes so that any files created in the user's home directory will have the correct group.

adduser will copy files from SKEL into the home directory and prompt for finger (GECOS) information and a password. The GECOS field may also be set with the --gecos option. With the --disabled-login option, the account will be created but will be disabled until a password is set. The --disabled-password option will not set a password, but login is still possible (for example with SSH keys).

If the file /usr/local/sbin/adduser.local exists, it will be executed after the user account has been set up in order to do any local setup.

adduser.local is also the place where local administrators can place their code to interact with directory services, should they desire to.

The arguments passed to adduser.local are:
username uid gid home-directory

The environment variable VERBOSE is set according to the following rule:

if --quiet is specified
if neither --quiet nor --debug is specified
if --debug is specified

(The same applies to the variable DEBUG, but DEBUG is deprecated and will be removed in a later version of adduser.)

Add a system user

If called with one non-option argument and the --system option, adduser will add a dynamically allocated system user, often abbreviated as system user in the context of the adduser package. If a user with the same name already exists in the system uid range (or, if the uid is specified, if a user with that uid already exists), adduser will exit with a warning. This warning can be suppressed by adding --quiet.

adduser will choose the first available UID from the range specified for system users in the configuration file (FIRST_SYSTEM_UID and LAST_SYSTEM_UID). If you want to have a specific UID, you can specify it using the --uid option.

By default, system users are placed in the nogroup group. To place the new system user in an already existing group, use the --gid or --ingroup options. To place the new system user in a new group with the same ID, use the --group option.

A home directory should be specified using the --home option. If not specified, the default home directory for a new system user is /nonexistent. This directory should never exist on any Debian system, and adduser will not create it automatically.

The new system user will have the shell /usr/sbin/nologin (unless overridden with the --shell option). Standard UNIX password logins will be disabled for the new system user; however, logins by other means (for example, via SSH) are still allowed. Skeletal configuration files are not copied.

Add a user group

If adduser is called with the --group option and without the --system option, or addgroup is called respectively, a user group will be added.

A GID will be chosen from the range specified for system GIDs in the configuration file (FIRST_GID, LAST_GID). To override that mechanism you can give the GID using the --gid option.

The range specified in the configuration file may be overridden with the --firstgid and --lastgid options.

The group is created with no users.

Add a system group

If addgroup is called with the --system option, a dynamically allocated system group, often abbreviated as system group in the context of the adduser package, will be created.

A GID will be chosen from the range specified for system GIDs in the configuration file (FIRST_SYSTEM_GID, LAST_SYSTEM_GID). To override that mechanism you can give the GID using the --gid option. The system group is created with no users.

Add an existing user to an existing group

If called with two non-option arguments, adduser will add an existing user to an existing group.


Use file instead of /etc/adduser.conf.
Do not run passwd to set the password. The user won't be able to use her account until the password is set.
Like --disabled-login, but logins are still possible (for example using SSH keys) but not using password authentication.
By default, user and group names are checked against the configurable regular expression NAME_REGEX and SYS_NAME_REGEX specified in the configuration file. This option forces adduser and addgroup to apply only a weak check for validity of the name. NAME_REGEX and SYS_NAME_REGEX are described in adduser.conf(5).
This is the deprecated form of --allow-badname. It will be removed during the release cycle of the Debian release after bookworm.
Bypass the weak name check which is used with --allow-badname. This will allow any username which is supported by the underlying useradd, including names containing non-ASCII characters. The only restrictions enforced at this level are: cannot start with a dash, plus sign, or tilde; and cannot contain a colon, comma, slash, or whitespace.
Set the GECOS field for the new entry generated. adduser will not ask for finger information if this option is given.
When creating a group, this option sets the group ID number of the new group to GID. When creating a user, this option sets the primary group ID number of the new user to GID.
When creating a user, this option sets the primary group ID number of the new user to the GID of the named GROUP. Unlike with the --gid option, the group is specified here by name rather than by ID number. The group must already exist.
When combined with --system , a group with the same name and ID as the system user is created. If not combined with --system , a group with the given name is created. This is the default action if the program is invoked as addgroup.
Display brief instructions.
Use dir as the user's home directory, rather than the default specified by the configuration file. If the directory does not exist, it is created and skeleton files are copied.
Use shell as the user's login shell, rather than the default specified by the configuration file.
Do not create a home directory for the new user. Note that the path name for the new user's home directory will still be entered in the appropriate field in the /etc/passwd file. The use of this option does not imply that this field should be empty. Rather, it indicates to adduser that some other mechanism will be responsible for initializing the new user's home directory if it is to exist.
Suppress informational messages, only show warnings and errors.
Be verbose, most useful if you want to nail down a problem with adduser.
Nomally, adduser creates dynamically allocated user accounts and groups as defined in Debian Policy, Chapter 9.2.2. With this option, adduser creates a dynamically allocated system user and group.
Force the new userid to be the given number. adduser will fail if the userid is already taken.
Override the first uid in the range that the uid is chosen from (overrides FIRST_UID specified in the configuration file).
Override the last uid in the range that the uid is chosen from (LAST_UID).
Override the first gid in the range that the gid is chosen from (overrides FIRST_GID specified in the configuration file).
Override the last gid in the range that the gid is chosen from (LAST_GID).
Add new user to extra groups defined in the configuration file. Old spelling --add_extra_groups is deprecated and will be supported in Debian bookworm only.
Display version and copyright information.


Success: The user or group exists as specified. This can have 2 causes: The user or group was created by this call to adduser or the user or group was already present on the system before adduser was invoked. If adduser --system is invoked for a user already existing as a system user, it will also return 0.
Creating the non-system user or group failed because it was already present. The username or groupname was rejected because of a mismatch with the configured regular expressions, see adduser.conf(5). adduser has been aborted by a signal.
Or for many other yet undocumented reasons which are printed to console then. You may then consider to remove --quiet to make adduser more verbose.


adduser needs root privileges and offers, via the --conf command line option to use a different configuration file. Do not use sudo or similar tools to give partial privileges to adduser with restricted command line parameters. This is easy to circumvent and might allow users to create arbitrary accounts. If you want this, consider writing your own wrapper script and giving privileges to execute that script.


Default configuration file for adduser and addgroup
Optional custom add-ons.


Unfortunately, the term system account suffers from double use in Debian. It both means an account for the actual Debian system, distinguishing itself from an application accountP which might exist in the user database of some application running on Debian. A system account in this definition has the potential to log in to the actual system, has a UID, can be member in system groups, can own files and processes. Debian Policy, au contraire, in its Chapter 9.2.2, makes a distinguishment of dynamically allocated system users and groups and dynamially allocated user accounts, meaning in both cases special instances of system accounts. Care must be taken to not confuse this terminology. Since adduser and deluser never address application accounts and everything in this package concerns system accounts here, the usage of the terms user account and system account is actually not ambiguous in the context of this package. For clarity, this document uses the definition local system account or group if the distinction to application accounts or accounts managed in a directory service is needed.

adduser used to have the vision to be the universal front end to the various directory services for creation and deletion of regular and system accounts in Debian since the 1990ies. This vision has been abandoned as of 2022. The rationale behind this includes: that in practice, a small server system is not going to have write access to an enterprise-wide directory service anyway, that locally installed packages are hard to manage with centrally controlled system accounts, that enterprise directory services have their own management processes anyway and that the personpower of the adduser is unlikely to be ever strong enough to write or support the plethora of directory services that need support.

adduser will constrict itself to being a policy layer for the management of local system accounts, using the tools from the password package for the actual work.


Inconsistent use of terminology around the term system account in docs and code is a bug. Please report this and allow us to improve our docs.

adduser takes special attention to be directly usable in Debian maintainer scripts without conditional wrappers, error suppression and other scaffolding. The only thing that the package maintainer should need to code is a check for the presence of the executable in the postrm script. The adduser maintainers consider the need for additional scaffolding a bug and encourage their fellow Debian package maintainers to file bugs against the adduser package in this case.


adduser.conf(5), deluser(8), groupadd(8), useradd(8), usermod(8), Debian Policy 9.2.2.


Copyright (C) 1997, 1998, 1999 Guy Maor. Modifications by Roland Bauerschmidt and Marc Haber. Additional patches by Joerg Hoh and Stephen Gran.
Copyright (C) 1995 Ted Hajek, with a great deal borrowed from the original Debian adduser
Copyright (C) 1994 Ian Murdock. adduser is free software; see the GNU General Public Licence version 2 or later for copying conditions. There is no warranty.

Debian GNU/Linux